Bestselling author James Patterson apologized Tuesday following backlash to a recent interview in which he argued that older white male writers face “another form of racism” in finding work.
“I apologize for saying white male writers having trouble finding work is a form of racism,” the prolific author of thriller novels wrote on Facebook. “I absolutely do not believe that racism is practiced against white writers. Please know that I strongly support a diversity of voices being heard — in literature, in Hollywood, everywhere.”
Patterson, 75, holds the record for the most books to top The New York Times’ bestsellers list, and is one of the world’s richest and most successful authors. In 2019, Forbes estimated his net worth to be around $800 million.
In an interview with British newspaper The Sunday Times published over the weekend, Patterson said that it was becoming difficult for older white male writers to find work in film, theater, television and publishing.
″[It’s] just another form of racism,” Patterson said. “What’s that all about? Can you get a job? Yes. Is it harder? Yes. It’s even harder for older writers. You don’t meet many 52-year-old white males.”
His comments were met with fierce backlash. Objectors noted that despite efforts to improve diversity, the publishing world remains overwhelmingly white.
“What an obtuse statement from James Patterson,” tweeted Shola Mos-Shogbamimu, author of This Is Why I Resist: Don’t Define My Black Identity. “He best pick up books & educate himself on what racism is. He’s missing good old days when White men had ALL the writing gigs?”
In 2020, a New York Times analysis of race in the book industry found that in a sample of more than 7,000 published books, 95 percent were written by white people.
Penguin Random House conducted an audit of its published titles between 2019 and 2021 and learned that 75 percent of its contributors were white.
“Our contributor demographics do not reflect U.S. reader demographics when it comes to race and ethnicity. Black, Hispanic and Indigenous representation is low while white representation is overindexed,” the publishing house wrote in a report of its findings. It also said it needed to “greatly accelerate” its efforts to improve diversity through a number of initiatives.